In the Realms of the Unreal


Generally favorable reviews - based on 20 Critics

Critic score distribution:
  1. Positive: 15 out of 20
  2. Negative: 0 out of 20

Critic Reviews

  1. One need not necessarily appreciate Darger's art to enjoy Yu's sympathetic, intimate, and often breathtaking journey into the workings of his mind.
  2. 100
    Darger made art as if the lives of his subjects depended on it. That's how Yu has made her movie.
  3. 50
    Yu's portrait of Darger, which clocks in at 82 minutes, skims over the only aspect of his life that commands respect: his craft.
  4. If this documentary were about a serious painter, it would be judged a travesty not unlike commercials that goose up the couple in "American Gothic" or show the Mona Lisa laughing.
  5. Yu's approach to the material is brilliant.
  6. A singular and haunting experience.
  7. 80
    Yu has transferred to her superb film, the hushed awe she must have felt the day she walked into the room - and, in a sense, the mind - of this strange, singular individual.
  8. Filmmaker Jessica Yu, in In the Realms of the Unreal, outlines Darger's lonely life and interviews Lerner's elegant, sympathetic widow Kiyoko and other Darger neighbors -- highlighted by enchanting animation of some of Darger's exquisite scrolls.
  9. Even without much in the way of hard facts, Yu makes intuitive leaps, using animated segments to bring to life Darger's work, and therefore the man - or as much of him as it is possible to fathom.
  10. 75
    Yu presents a compelling, somewhat disturbing portrait of the artist, who in 2000 was the subject of a major exhibit that toured the world.
  11. Has an odd magic about it - the magic of Darger's singularly peculiar dreamworld.
  12. 60
    In the end, it all gets to be too stifling. The film looks amazing, and there may be no better way to adapt Darger's work to the screen. But Yu's decision to limit the comments on Darger's enduring appeal keeps the audience locked in his cramped room too long, without a window of context.
  13. The film, like its subject, is more adroit with pictures than with words.
  14. A fascinating examination of a mysterious life and the truly bizarre art that it spawned.
  15. 80
    Obscure by nature and unwieldy by design, Darger's work is difficult to confront and consume; Ms. Yu has brought it a little closer, and that is as fine a public service as an art documentary can provide.
  16. 80
    The result is an astonishingly complex, striking original portrait of an artist whose deeply personal art, intended for no one but God and himself, demands to be treated on its own terms.
  17. Reviewed by: Joe Leydon
    Documentarian Jessica Yu employs everything from animation and voiceover thesping to archival documents and eyewitness accounts while examining Henry Darger, a self-taught artist who has been posthumously lionized as a visionary genius.
  18. Reviewed by: Ed Park
    Jessica Yu's elegant new doc In the Realms of the Unreal is a spry, creative response to his (Darger's) oceanic talent and claustrophobic life.
  19. The path taken by the film is somewhat labyrinthine and obscure, but it offers enough rewards to counterbalance its frustrations.

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